‘Janitors in Singapore earn more than us’: Malaysia’s medical grads are up in arms over incentive cuts – here’s what we know

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Malaysia’s young medical professionals are not having a very happy end of the year, after the Government announced it would be cutting monetary incentives – in particular, the Critical Service Incentive Payment (BIPK) – that have been in place since 1992.
Why the BIPK is being abolished
According to Malay Mail, medical professionals in public service are paid a fixed allowance of RM750 (US$181, S$246) on top of their monthly salary under the BIPK.

In a report, state news agency Bernama quoted Public Service Department (PSD) Deputy Director-General (Development) Datuk Suhaime Mahbar as saying that the BIPK was being abolished as there was no longer a need to attract graduates in certain industries to join public service.
“Critical here does not mean that the job is difficult but it is very difficult to get the expertise,” Suhaime reportedly said.
“For example, there were not many medical graduates back then, therefore the allowance was introduced to attract them to join the public service,” he said.
The public sector now receives over 24,000 applications for just over 15,000 medical officer posts, he said.
In total, 33 service schemes will face incentive payment cuts from January 1. Existing BIPK recipients are not affected by the cuts.
Other professions affected include architects, marine officers, engineers and pilots.
‘Janitor in Singapore earns more than us’
The move to cut incentive allowances has drawn widespread backlash from medical students and professionals, as well as ministers, including Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad.
Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman even took to Twitter to slam the Department’s decision, saying that doctors and nurses “are already heavily overworked and underpaid”.

The Malaysian Medical Association also spoke out against the decision, and a petition started online garnered more than 90,000 signatures in just two days.
“Why does the civil service seem to be targeting the healthcare workers? We are the only professional scheme with contract juniors,” the association wrote in its petition statement.
It also said that while it supports having a “leaner civil service”, prudence “should never come at the expense of the critical areas for the development of the country, namely health and education”.
In a report on Friday (Dec 27), English-language newspaper The Star said that incoming medical professionals are under the impression that the Government no longer deems the public healthcare sector critical to the nation.
Students quoted by The Star voiced concerns that the incentive cuts could lead to lower healthcare standards, since professionals might find themselves being overworked and underpaid. Many may even seek better opportunities abroad, a 22-year-old Bachelor of Pharmacy student said.
A 24-year-old dentist awaiting his housemanship placement lamented that the cut would affect about 20 per cent of his salary, adding that “a janitor in Singapore earns more than us”. He, too, expressed worry that graduates would be attracted by higher salaries elsewhere and go into private practice.
According to The Star, the typical salary of houseman doctors hired in January 2020 will be around RM3,842 (S$1,258).
Allowances not permanent: Suhaime
This not the first time incentive allowances have been reviewed since they were implemented 27 years ago.
According to Suhaime, 27 allowances have so far been removed, merged or rebranded.
“What needs to be understood is the allowances given are not permanent and can be withdrawn according to the current situation, but many consider them as their absolute right,” he was quoted by Bernama as saying.
He added that there were 22 other allowances available to medical graduates in public service, including the Hospital Administration Allowance, Medical On-call Allowance, and Specialist Incentive Payment.

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